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Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 Oct;33(10):2390-406. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21370. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Memory training impacts short-term changes in aging white matter: a longitudinal diffusion tensor imaging study.

Author information

  • 1Center for the Study of Human Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. andreas.engvig@gmail.com

Abstract

A growing body of research indicates benefits of cognitive training in older adults, but the neuronal mechanisms underlying the effect of cognitive intervention remains largely unexplored. Neuroimaging methods are sensitive to subtle changes in brain structure and show potential for enhancing our understanding of both aging- and training-related neuronal plasticity. Specifically, studies using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) suggest substantial changes in white matter (WM) in aging, but it is not known whether cognitive training might modulate these structural alterations. We used tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) optimized for longitudinal analysis to delineate the effects of 8 weeks intensive memory training on WM microstructure. 41 participants (mean age 61 years) matched for age, sex and education were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group. All participants underwent MRI-scanning and neuropsychological assessments at the beginning and end of the study. Longitudinal analysis across groups revealed significant increase in frontal mean diffusivity (MD), indicating that DTI is sensitive to WM structural alterations over a 10-week interval. Further, group analysis demonstrated positive effects of training on the short-term changes. Participants in the training group showed a relative increase in fractional anisotropy (FA) compared with controls. Further, a significant relationship between memory improvement and change in FA was found, suggesting a possible functional significance of the reported changes. The training effect on FA seemed to be driven by a relative decrease in radial diffusivity, which might indicate a role for myelin-related processes in WM plasticity.

Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

PMID:
21823209
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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